Two legal cases have brought the question of who should perform animal dentistry – veterinary professionals or unlicensed entrepreneurs – to the industry forefront. Veterinary practice acts define animal dentistry as veterinary procedures, but vague legal language has opened the door for misinterpretation or misuse in California and Canada and reinforce the importance of educating clients about unlicensed practitioners whose actions can cause animal injury and death.

The California Veterinary Medical Board (CVMB) has filed six citations over the last three years against Canine Care, a non-veterinary business that offers anesthesia-free teeth cleaning, for violations of that state’s Veterinary Practice Act. The issue came to a head in December when an Attorney General’s office judge heard testimony from the two parties. A decision is expected within 30 days that could award the CVMB $500 per citation and enforce the Act.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the Alberta Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 28 that the Veterinary Profession Act did not include equine dentistry, a verdict that worries small and large animal veterinarians. “The concern is that if dentistry isn’t included in the … [veterinary] surgery and medicine what else isn’t included?” said Clay Gellhaus, deputy registrar for the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. “What else can people do?”

The Alberta VMA may take the case to the Supreme Court and consider revising the Veterinary Profession Act because the judge said the scope of dental practice wasn’t clearly defined, Gellhaus said.

The California case illustrates what can happen when veterinarians are not involved in dental procedures. Canine Care staff members, who are unlicensed and have no veterinary training, have injured two animals and killed a 5-year-old Pekingese while performing dental cleanings, according to the CVMB. “This is a consumer fraud issue,” explained Gina Bayless, CVMB enforcement program manager. “[Clients are] not getting the cleaning procedure they think they’re getting.”

Canine Care has offered non-veterinary training in dental procedures since 1979, and requires “more than 200 hours long…[including] field training with another hygienist,” according to a company website. The owner, who has no veterinary training, developed the curriculum, said Bayless. “They [employees] don’t know how to remove plaque and are using scrapers that can lead to infection,” she said. “And the conditions are not sanitary. They’re sitting down on the floor and removing plaque from an animal’s teeth.”

The company sends employees to at least seven pet shops, grooming stores and pet spas to perform cleanings and offers a franchisee agreement, which indicates potential for expansion, said Bayless. “It’s really frustrating because we’ve tried to educate pet stores and grooming locations about it, but they believe Canine Care over a state agency,” she said.

Veterinary practice teams across the country should be aware of unlicensed, unlawful operations that jeopardize animal health, said Sara Sharp, secretary for the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians. “This is going to be a national issue. There are always going to be people who think they can clean a dog’s teeth,” she said.

The California Veterinary Medical Association wrote letters to Canine Care, advising the company of the law, said Dick Schumacher, executive director. “It’s clear to us and to them that this is an illegal activity,” he said.

While the CVMA and the Alberta VMA pursue legal action to protect animals from non-veterinary dental procedures, representatives advise veterinarians to educate clients about these unlicensed providers. CVMA members can download and print an online brochure for clients and industry-wide pet dental information is available at www.petdental.com.

Comments (1) -

john t. smith
john t. smithCanada
12/4/2015 8:17:14 AM #

I understand that knowledge is important when working with horses
and especially when working in the area of equine dentistry.There is however
for me a rather disturbing issue with regards to the practice of equine
dentistry.The assumption that a non veterinarian is incapable of performing
oral palpations and floating after receiving proper training seems rather
unfair.I have recently graduated from Dr.Geoff Tuckers School of Equine Dentistry.
I have been practicing Traditional Dentistry in my retirement residence in
the Dominican Republic for a while now.I perform oral palpations and
floating without the use of mechanical devices such as speculums,nor with the use
of medications.My hands are my speculums.The only speculum I have and use
on rare ocassions is a rubber speculum and this is only for when access is needed
to reduce a hook(s) on the 11;s when the horse is perhaps nervous and is biting
down on the slimline tool.I believe that dentistry without drama is important for the horse.
I have and use the finest floating instruments available.The mantra of saving a tooth
is paramount.I have the experience of removing a saggital fracture.Fractures such as this
as well as transverse and coronal fractures are within my capabilities.However let
me make myself perfectly clear,if there is even the slightest chance that there is something
even remotely outside of the norm this is then a situation requiring a veterinarian.As
an example,eruption bumps of the lower mandible,this may not necessarily be from a
permanent tooth erupting but rather possibly an abscess which may require the administering
of a broad spectrum antibiotic.However after a period of perhaps 30-60 days this situation
may still exist in which case there may be yet a different scenario,possible a sequestrum
of the lower mandible,possible from a trauma of sorts.I consider the horse to be my highest
priority even above myself.I have seen horse's BCS's improve after removing sharp points
on maxillary buccal sharp points,mandibular lingual sharp points,hooks reduced,ulcers eliminated
because of sharp points removed and teeth tighten up because the tongue is able to strop
and clean these areas free of pain.On ocassion removed retained caps.Horsemanship matters
above anything else when working with these great atheletes.Connecting with and understanding
their needs allows for a working relationship and a successful result.

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